Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 March Madness Picks -- Part II

OK so here is part II of my 2010 March Madness picks. In case you missed it, here is read Part I of my predictions where I contemplate the Midwest and the East brackets. In this post, I will provide my thoughts on the Western and the Southern regionals.

Starting with the West, this is the bracket that I think competes with the East as the toughest brackets in the field this year, again mostly because the West contains 3 solid teams among its top four seeds. Syracuse is the #1 seed in the West, and anybody who has watched the Cuse play more than a couple of games this season knows that this is a team with a ton of skill, seven quality starting players, they can shoot the ball very well, and most of all they play a 2-3 zone defense that for most teams will be perhaps the most "different" defense they have faced all season long. As if this weren't enough to propel the Cuse to the final two teams in their bracket, the #4 seed on Syracuse's side of the bracket is Vanderbilt, a trendy pick of late but not a team in my view that can stick with Syracuse, on either side of the ball. In fact, I expect Butler at #5 to beat Vandy in the Round of 32, but either way the Cuse should have little trouble dispatching with either team in the Sweet 16. On the other half of the bracket, Kansas State is a strong #2 seed, as is Pittsburgh at #3. Although there are some other teams on that half of the regional, it's nobody who I think will have much of a chance to upend either K-State or Pitt, and those two teams seem destined for a Sweet 16 clash as well, where I would guess that K-State will win as I have seen Pitt look entirely too beatable on one or two too many occasions this season.

So for the West regional, I think we are looking at Syracuse - Butler on the top half, and Kansas State - Pittsburgh on the bottom. The Cuse should have enough to overpower Butler (or Vanderbilt) to reach the Elite 8, where I would guess they will face Kansas State in what is probably that school's best basketball team in many years.

Moving to the South bracket, here is the one regional where I think the #1 seed (Duke) does not have a good chance of winning their way through and reaching the Final Four. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the ACC had the worst year in 2010 that I can ever recall that conference having. And that's not just words on a screen or monitor somewhere -- the bottom line is that, when Duke posts a record of 29-5 and 13-3 in the ACC, people cannot help but see that and identify it with some of the national championship-type of teams Duke has had in the recent past. But this team simply did not face even close to the day-in, day-out quality of competition that it is used to facing in most years, and I think this will show through come Tournament time. North Carolina, the perennial powerhouse, was horrible this year, and offered up two easy wins for Duke that normally require the Blue Devils to claw their way to one win the season series. Maryland was the only other team in the entire ACC to to have fewer than six conference losses, or fewer than 8 total losses on the season. While Maryland might have been up, UNC was down as I mentioned, as were Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Clemson, BC, Virgina, NC State and basically every other ACC team. And outside of the conference, Duke beat bad Arizona State, UConn and St. Johns teams, they lost at Wisconsin and they got crushed by Georgetown, also on the road. In fact, throughout the regular season, this Duke squad was just 8-5 away from Cameron Indoor Stadium, and if you take out the three neutral-court wins vs. UConn, ISU and Gonzaga, they were actually just 5-5 in true road games on the year. Most dramatically, I read this past weekend that Duke finished the 2009-2010 regular season with exactly one win against the NCAA top 50 teams. That right there is all I need to know -- Duke will not go far this year and will fail to make the Final Four for the seventh straight season.

So who is going to beat Duke in the South regional this year? Well, the obvious choice is #2 seeded Villanova, not only because they are a more athletic team playing in a much tougher conference, but also because a very similar Nova team crushed a very similar Duke team in last year's NCAA tournament in one of the worst beatings of last year's Big Dance. But I actually think Duke will lose even before facing off against Villanova in the Elite 8, most likely I would guess to Louisville if they can get past their first match with Pac-10 denizen Cal.

Other than Nova and Louisville, however, the NCAA Committee really did Duke a major favor by putting them in what I think is easily the weakest of the four brackets in this year's Tournament. #2 Villanova ended the season on an extended losing streak, including losing in their first game in the Big East tournament, and the #3 seed in the bracket is the Baylor Bears, in whom I have very little confidence. And then the #4 seed is Purdue, who after losing forward Robbie Hummel for the year to injury went on to get utterly crushed by 27 points in their next game in the Big Ten tournament to a 13-loss Minnesota team. You can take Purdue out, because they are utterly, completely done for this season, and I would not be surprised at all to see them lose in the first round to #13 seed Sienna.

So the South looks to be the easiest bracket of the four, and yet I do not think #1 Duke will be around for the regional finals in the Elite 8, although I do think that #2 Villanova is likely to survive to play for the first to appear in back to back Final Fours. I do not feel comfortable with either the #3 or the #4 seed in this bracket, nor with any of the other teams on the top half of that draw, so I am leaning towards Louisville possibly busting out with a run to the Elite 8 under coach Rick Pitino who certainly has had success in this tournament in the past.

So my eight Elite 8 picks through all four regionals include:

Midwest: 1 Kansas, 3 Georgetown

East: 1 Kentucky, 2 West Virginia

West: 1 Syracuse, 2 Kansas State

South: 9 Louisville, 2 Villanova

Back tomorrow with my Elite 8, Final Four and National Championship selections.

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12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a lot of Big East love for a conference having a down year. Other than Georgetown and Syracuse I don't see much coming from the Big East this year. I also think Louisville gets beat by Cal in Round 1.

Actually other than the Big 12 all of college basketball is having a down year. This is easily the weakest field that I've ever seen and legitimately there may only be three or four teams that can win the title.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Well, I think the Big East is continuing what is without a doubt the greatest two year run in the history of collegiate sports for any conference in any sport. Which shouldn't be surprising really since these conferences just keep expanding and adding more and more quality teams. Anyways compared to last year when legitimately three of the top five teams in the country might have been in the Big East, I suppose you could call this a down year. But it seems to me that this year's Big East was better than any year any other conference has ever had when it comes to college basketball.

And yes, part of tomorrow's post is discussing general trends I expect for this year's tournament, which most definitely includes picking teams from conferences that caused them to play the best competition night in and night out, while staying almost completely away from the Pac-10 and ACC teams that had just horrible years and barely had any quality wins all season long.

You are 100% correct though that this may be generally speaking the weakest field of 64 I can ever remember. If this isn't Kansas, Kentucky or the Cuse winning it all this year I would be majorly surprised.

3:26 AM  

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